Salvation - The Work of God for Men - Part 1
R. Grant, Stevenston
The theme of 1 Peter 1. 3-12 is the work of God - Father, Son and Spirit - for men, and this is unfolded in three paragraphs, the first of which describes "The work of the Father", vv. 3-5, as the ground of the believer's hope. The statement in these verses is
Valuable as Consolation. In the light of their circumstances, the readers of this letter would see in these words a great contrast with their present state. Many (probably most of them) had lost, by their confession of the Lord Jesus, the rights and privileges of natural birth. Disowned and disinherited, they must have thrilled to be reminded of the supreme advantages of new birth into the family of God. For many, the passage presented, in its vista of infinite prospects and glorious horizons, a vivid contrast with the restrictions and limitations of the moment. What, too, of the loss of "spiritual" rights, supposedly theirs as Jews? Cut off from all that they once valued of theocratic privilege, it was fitting to remind them of all that attached to "being born again"- in brief, the fulfilment of all God's intentions in and for His people.
The passage implies, too, a wealth of compensation - of spiritual advantages secured in the place of natural advantages sacrificed; of the gain of infinite wealth of heavenly inheritance for the loss of what was, at best, the little earth had to give. This matter of compensation was, as we have already seen, the subject of Peter's own question to the Lord Jesus, "we have forsaken all ... what shall we have therefore?", Matt. 19. 27, and clearly Peter had now apprehended all involved in his Master's reply. The verses are also
Victorious in Certainty. The "hope" of which they speak is vested in a living Man, once the focus of man's hatred of all that is divinely good, and by men brutally done to death. It is by means of the resurrection of this Man that God has "begotten us again to a lively (lrvmg) hope". Men had said, "let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance", Matt. 21. 38. But God had determined that the inheritance should be His and by the resurrection gave His answer to such folly. The Lord Jesus is now glorified, and the title deeds of the inheritance so dearly won are held by Him in trust. He cannot be reached by any power which might question His rights. In His own words it is safe, "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt".
Peter does not stop to argue the question of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He assumes it to be a fact, himself being one of the witnesses, and he does not appear to find it necessary to convince his readers. Dare we, in our day, allow the suggestion that he and so many other godly witnesses who saw the Lord Jesus alive after His passion were testifying to a lie or even to a doubt? - and for what? Was the loss of all, was a martyr's crown, were sufferings at which even ungodly men recoil in horror - were these the rewards for which they are alleged to have perpetrated a falsehood and from which they would have been spared had they chosen to withhold their testimony? Nothing but conviction born of personal experience would cause them to echo again and again the triumphant words, "But now is Christ risen from the dead". The verses are also
Vast in Comprehensiveness, and answer every one of the questions which language poses.
The verses tell us "why"- it is "according to his abundant mercy". No cause in us, or outside of Himself, explains God's actions, and we cannot afford to lose the sense of wonder as we realize this. An aged brother in East Anglia, who so clearly knew His God and His book, used to pray with vigour and variety, but seldom did so without repeating the verse Why was I caused to hear Thy voice
And enter while there's room; While thousands make the wretched choice,
And rather starve than come? This sentiment should make us worshippers in God's presence.
The verses tell us "how"- it is "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". Without that blessed fact, there is no new life for anyone; because of it, new life is guaranteed to everyone who believes. The resurrection of the Firstborn implies and guarantees the resurrection of the family. The presence of the Forerunner in heaven, Heb. 6. 20, implies and guarantees the presence there of all His followers. The hope is "living" because it is vested in a living Man-that Man being the focus of Jewish prejudice, the object of Jewish rejection, as also the readers had become in some degree. He is in heaven now, and, despite the worst that men can do, so surely will His brethren be with Him there.
The verses tell us "zvhat"- it is "a living hope ... an inheritance incorruptible, and undented, and that fadeth not away", w. 3-4 R.v. The adjectives used imply contrast - first of all with the dead hopes of the past, then with the lost inheritance, either of material possessions or of the spiritual privileges of an earthly people in covenant relationship with Jehovah. The passage confirms what is taught in Romans 8. 17-that children of God are the inheritors of divine possessions. Their inheritance is safe from all influences and factors which so adversely affect earthly possessions. Death itself cannot corrupt it-it is flawless; sin cannot mar it-it is faultless; time cannot erode it - it is fadeless. Not only are the children called "heirs of God"; they are "joint-heirs with Christ". Their inheritance is co-extensive with His, the immeasurable "all things" of Colossians 1. 16.
The verses tell us "zohere"- it is "reserved in heaven". The Owner and Guarantor is already there, the title deeds already His. Heaven is His, first of all because of who He is, Heb. i, then because of what He has done, Heb. 2, and these grounds are absolutely unchallengeable. The inheritance is as unassailable there as is the Man who has secured it.
The verses tell us "who"- it is "for you, who are (being) kept by the power of God ... unto salvation". Not by accident does Peter say, "for you"; compare the expressions "manifested . . . for you", and "suffered for you", 1. 20; 2. 21 r.v. By it he would stress the fact that, whatever men may think or do, God puts His own value on them. "Strangers", they arc, 1. 1, but "newborn babes" in the family of God, 2. 2; "scattered", 1. i, but "sheep" in the "flock of God", 2. 25; 5. 2; suffering they may be, 1. 6, but secure in the faithfulness of God, 4. 19. Let men put "on you" what assessment they will, says Peter, but God has provided "for you" more than earth could ever give. But it is "for you, who are (being) kept ... unto salvation", that is, the purpose of God which nothing can thwart whatever present circumstances or future threats may suggest to the contrary. That inheritance is "reserved . . .for you", and God has guaranteed His power to keep "you" to the day of possession. But He does so "through faith". "It is, God be praised, the power of God Himself; but it acts by sustaining faith in the heart, maintaining it in spite of all temptations, above all the defilement of the world and filling the affections with heavenly things", Darby's Synopsis. The verses that follow are full of this. V7e may be helped by perceiving it to be a touching allusion to the words of the Lord Jesus in the day of danger, "but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not",
Luke 22. 32. .
The verses tell us "when"- it is "in the last time". "Hope" is one of Peter's words to saints whose earthly prospects may have been bleak, and whose future, naturally speaking, is hopeless. But in contrast with the "now" of their experience, 1.6, the "then" is brilliant with promise. We often remind our unsaved friends that time is short, eternity is sure, but with what a different meaning does Peter invest that sentiment as he addresses it to hard-pressed believers longing for relief.